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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Q&A: The UN's Bosnia mission
The United States has vetoed a renewal of a United Nations police mission in Bosnia to protest against the creation of an international criminal court.

BBC Europe reporter Bill Hayton looks at the implications of the veto for UN mandated missions in the country.

What Bosnian operations are covered by the UN mandate?

In 1995, the UN Security Council passed a resolution which authorised its members to establish a multi-national peacekeeping force in co-operation with Nato.

The Nato-led Stabilisation Force, or S-For, was subsequently set up.

The security council also passed another resolution establishing an International Police Task Force (IPTF).

The mandates of both S-For and the IPTF have had to be periodically renewed by the security council.

Is S-For also under threat?

It depends who you believe.

Nato sources argue that because S-For derives its legitimacy directly from the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the Bosnian war in 1995, UN involvement is little more than a formality.

However, a close reading of the Dayton agreement suggests a different interpretation.

The text says that the UN Security Council is "invited to adopt a resolution by which it will authorize member states or regional organisations and arrangements to establish a multinational military force".

In other words, the force is authorised by the UN, so it requires an extension of its UN mandate.

Without an extension S-For cannot operate.

Is the UN policing operation in jeopardy?

The policing operation carries out vital work in a country still riddled with organised crime, political corruption and nationalist violence.

In many cases the local police are part of the problem and the 1,500-strong UN mission is trying to improve the situation.

It is supposed to be handing over its responsibilities to the European Union at the end of this year.

But there's considerable doubt that the EU will be ready by then.

The chances of it being able to take over almost instantly are far slimmer.

Would the international community really allow it to collapse?

On the face of it, this is highly unlikely.

Among international staff working in Bosnia life is continuing as normal, on the assumption that the row will be sorted out.

The very idea that six years of reconstruction and political reconciliation will be allowed to unravel, just as Bosnia prepares for general elections in October appears inconceivable.

However, if there is no agreement at the UN, that could happen.

This explains why Nato is arguing that its work doesn't need a mandate, it realises what is at stake.

Is there any precedent?

Yes. In February 1999, the UN Security Council failed to extend the mandate of the UN Preventative Deployment (UNPREDEP) in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

This mission had been remarkably successful in preventing the turmoil in the rest of former Yugoslavia spilling across the border and exacerbating tensions between the ethnic Albanian and Macedonian communities.

However, the Macedonian Government had just given diplomatic recognition to the government of Taiwan, angering the Chinese government.

In revenge China vetoed the extension of the UNPREDP mandate.

This was at exactly the same time as the conflict in Kosovo.

Two years later that conflict did spill over Macedonia's borders and a security crisis in the north and east of the country took it to the brink of civil war.

The consequences of a similar pullout in Bosnia might be even worse.

See also:

01 Jul 02 | Americas
01 Jul 02 | Americas
21 Nov 00 | Europe
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